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who were governed and not governing, filled with the rumours which lasted a hundred years of the burnings under "Bloody Mary," clung to the Bible and enshrined it with hasp, and under lock and key, as something precious. Their forefathers had given their lives for the reading of this prohibited book.
In regard to the decoration of these Bible boxes, in no case do we find anything Italianate. The likeness of Christ or the Madonna is absent. Reliquaries they were, although the owners would abominate the name, but their decoration was as poles asunder from continental ornament and imagery. They are insular and therefore extremely interesting to the collector. There is nothing like them in Europe. They are in decoration extremely secular, in spite of their sacred contents. They eschewed alike the irony of the miserere seat, or the fancies of the Dutch carver of biblical scenes on his panels. Crude peasant designs in incised ornament or at best conventional Jacobean carving is all that they can offer. The wealth of imagery of the Bible had its influence on speech and written thought, but the new religion put a veto on artistic impulse and the designs entered into a period of barrenness on a lower plane than Saxon art.
In conclusion it may be noticed that sometimes the Bible box is found on a stand where it was used as a reading desk at family prayers. In this form it has, more frequently than not,
a sloping lid, and although related to the lectern of ecclesiastical use it has an affinity with the later writing desk, and it is not too much to advance the theory that as the fly-leaves of the Bible were used to record the births and deaths of members of the family, and the Bible box often held the last will and testament of the owner, it may be said to have become the farmer's strong box and the repository of documents appertaining to his estate. In these conditions it is easy to see its transition from the Bible box to the more mundane desk.